Renata von Tscharner to receive Olmsted Medal


Wicked Local Newton

Newton —

The founder and president of the Charles River Conservancy, Renata von Tscharner, has been selected to receive the American Society of Landscape Architects’ prestigious Olmsted Medal. Named in honor of renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the medal recognizes individuals, organizations, agencies or programs outside the profession of landscape architecture for environmental leadership, vision and stewardship.

Established in 1990, one medal is awarded annually. Notable past recipients include former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Mathaai, former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, and the Trustees of Reservations, among others.

Formally trained as an architect and urban designer in Switzerland, von Tscharner founded the Charles River Conservancy in 2000, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the stewardship, renewal and active use of the Charles River parklands from Boston Harbor to the Watertown Dam. Under her leadership, the Conservancy has enlisted more than 21,000 volunteers who have contributed more than $1.4 million of donated labor to improve the health, safety and beauty of the urban parklands along the Charles.

She is the driving force behind the development of a skate park at North Point in Cambridge and a tireless advocate for improved access in the parklands, including better pathways and bridge underpasses at the Anderson, Western Avenue and River Street bridges that traverse the Charles River. She is also an avid advocate to bring the tradition of swimming back to the Charles.

Nominated by several prominent Boston area landscape architects, including Kathleen Ogden, president of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects; Pierre Bélanger, associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design; and Craig Halvorson, founding principal of Halvorson Design Partnership, von Tscharner was surprised by the award. In his nomination letter, Halvorson wrote “Renata has continued to build on the visions of Charles Eliot and Frederick Law Olmsted by re-investing in their important parklands and inspiring others to get involved in their river. Through her commitment to the Conservancy, Renata models the Olmsted Medal’s principles of environmental leadership.”

The Charles River Conservancy’s mission embodies the principles that have guided Olmsted’s projects, such as Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston, including:

— Creating a democratic common ground for all to enjoy green space in the city;

— Leveraging infrastructure (e.g. sewage, transportation) projects as opportunities to create landscapes for recreation and respite; and

— Connecting green space, creating continuous linear parks including pathways, bridges and underpasses for diverse user groups.

von Tscharner will be awarded the Olmsted Medal in November at the ASLA Annual Conference, which this year will be held in Boston.

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